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II. The Unbeliever and Sin

A. Condemned without Christ

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). What does a person have to do to end up in Hell? Nothing! He is already condemned. Hell was not created for man (Matt. 25:41) but the man who does not receive Jesus’ payment for his sin will spend eternity there paying for his own sin. There is nothing that an unsaved man can do to please God until he trusts in Him (Rom. 14:23; Heb. 11:6). Man’s righteousness is nothing but “filthy rags” in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6). The reality of Hell should be a motivator for us to do our best to share the Good News of Salvation with as many as we can. People do not go to Hell because they sin, but because they do not receive the payment that has been made for their sins.

“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:12). There are only two major distinctions of mankind in God’s sight. They are not the religious or nonreligious, Baptist or Catholic, nice or not-so-nice. They are the ones who have Jesus and have life, and the ones without Jesus who are lost. There are only two kinds of Baptists or Charismatics, etc., those who have trusted in Jesus and have eternal life and those who have not trusted Him and are lost. The name we stick on them has nothing to do with salvation.

II. The Unbeliever and Sin,

B. Redeemed by Christ

God’s Word is very clear about sin and the unbeliever. He cannot overlook sin but He redeems sinners, based upon the blood of Christ (I Peter 1:18, 19). He tells the unsaved man that His marvelous grace is available to him (Titus 2:11). Man is saved by grace through faith or belief in Jesus (Eph. 2:8, 9)

The well-known but little-understood verse, John 3:16, tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” I heard this verse as a child but did not understand it. I knew that Jesus was necessary for salvation but I did not realize that He was also sufficient for my salvation.

Ephesians 2:8, 9 are two more of the many clear salvation verses in the Bible, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, Not of works lest any man should boast.” This verse is clear in its statement that salvation is a gift (Rom. 6:23) and it is not of what we do. It is receiving what God has already done.

1. Not Saved by Turning from Sin

Most of us have heard well-meaning “evangelists” telling unsaved people to “repent of their sins” in order to be saved. The truth is far from the world’s commonly held view of salvation. God’s Word states that He loves us while we are yet sinners (Romans 5:8), but without believing in Jesus the unbeliever is condemned already and has no hope (John 3:16-18, 36; I Thessa­lonians 4:13-14). Without Christ, we are hopeless sinners. It does not do any good to turn over a new leaf when both sides of the leaf are rotten.

The unsaved man is nowhere told in the Bible to give up sin, to do good works, or even to be willing to do something to be saved. We are unable to do anything of ourselves to merit eternal life. God loves us and will save us just the way we are. Cleaning up our lives or promising something to God has nothing to do with our salvation. If we do some good works and trust in these works as part of our merit before God, we did not trust in Jesus and, therefore are still lost (Romans 5:6,8; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8,9). Even though an unbeliever may make beneficial changes in his life, it will not save him (Titus 3:5; Romans 3:28, 14:23; Hebrews 11:6; Galatians 2:16). The only hope is to trust in Jesus as our Savior (John 14:6; John 3:16-18; Acts 16:31).

Probably two good reasons that God does not tell us to turn from sin in order to be saved are; 1. We cannot accomplish this impossible feat. Even the believer needs the indwelling Holy Spirit for victory in this area. 2. It would not save us if we could turn from sin. We are all born with a sinful nature and have continued to sin up until the point of potentially turning from sin. The payment for that sin has been made (I John 2:2)  but needs to “be put to our account” or we will pay for it for eternity.

The term, “repent of sin” (1) should be addressed here. The misunderstanding of this phrase has been the occasion for the unsaved to be confused about the Gospel and to reject what is often presented as the way of salvation. It has also hindered many believers from proclaiming a clear Gospel message to a lost world blinded by Satan (II Cor. 4:3, 4).

The word “repentance” in the Bible simply means “a change of mind.” This “change of mind” could be about anything and the results may differ in various applications. The results of the action do not change the meaning of the word. The New Testament does not even use the term “repent of sin” when speaking to the unbeliever.

An unsaved person can repent of sin or change his mind about his sin all day long and never be saved. He can even engage in supreme efforts to stop some of his sins and never have eternal life. He may have a better life but will still die lost unless he believes in Jesus (John 3:18).

The purpose statement of the Gospel of John is found in 20:31: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Since the book states its purpose so clearly and does not even mention the words, “repent” or “repentance,” but does mention variations of “belief” or “believe” 101 times,  I conclude that John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, did not think repentance to be a necessary part of our eternal salvation message. I can show you many verses which declare that faith in Jesus in the requirement to be saved, but I have yet to find a verse that conclusively states that we have to repent in order to have eternal life.

Some grace teachers, realizing that our sorrow for sin or change in lifestyle will not saves us, teach that repentance is included in faith: that if we believe in Jesus that we have already repented or “changed our mind” and thus, were saved by faith alone, in Jesus alone. This interpretation does not seem to conflict with the grace message. I have previously taught similar to this, but at this point in my studies I do not think that this interpretation is consistent with some Scripture.

Of course, what many people mean when they tell an unsaved person to “repent of their sin” to be saved is  that they need to turn from some or all of their sin, or at least be sorry for their sin and makes some promises about it before they can be acceptable to God for salvation. This is not the Gospel message that the Bible teaches. It is frequently taught but certainly is not the Good News that we are to tell the world (See Galatians 1:6-10 for God’s assessment of teachers who pollute the grace of Christ).

I find it contradictory, paradoxical, deceitful, and diabolical when I hear well-known and highly-acclaimed “evangelists” give a “salvation” message that requires a list of do’s and don’ts of human merit. Sometimes they throw in “believe in Christ” also. This is frequently climaxed with a salvation invitation of about a dozen verses of “Just As I Am.” How can they not see the contradiction?

This is not meant to be contentious or a splitting of theological hairs. I plead for clarity in the salvation message for two main reasons: 1. It is so very clear in God’s word and is truth. 2. I was blinded for years by a Christ-plus-do-good message for salvation. The vast majority of the people that I have helped lead to belief in Christ have been blinded by the same good-sounding but untrue salvation message of faith-plus-works for eternal life (Rom. 11:6). Paul says, “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech” (II Cor. 3:12).


2. Not Saved By Doing Good Works

One of counterfeits that Satan uses is to confuse the unbeliever into thinking he has to do good works to get to heaven. Many times preachers will misuse Bible verses that are meant to show a believer how to live and try to and use them to show an unsaved person how to get to heaven (II Cor. 4:3-4; 11:3,13-15).

It seems ironic that sometimes Satan seems to encourage good works for the unbeliever when it helps his cause by deceiving people (II Corinthians 11:3, 13-15; I Corinthians 2:4; Proverbs 14:12). After a person receives Christ, Satan is quite aware that a threat to him has stepped onto the spiritual battle­field. We then need to put on the spiritual armor in order to stand against the wiles of the devil and to keep our lives pure and usable for God. (Eph. 6:10-18). This passage is speaking about service to those who are already saved, not about the way of salvation for unbelievers.

None of these verses that tell a person how to have eternal life include any requirements for him to turn from sin, ask Jesus into his heart, give his heart to Jesus, go to church, do good works, walk down an aisle, commit his life to Jesus, give up something or promise something, or to be dipped in water, etc. This salvation depends entirely upon what Jesus has already done, not on what man tries to do. Man can and will fail but his salvation is already settled. He is not kept by his faith, but by the power of God (I Pet. 1:3-5). That is why he can know right now that he has eternal life (I John 5:13; Hebrews 10:17). That is also the only way that a man can know that he has eternal life. If it depended in any way upon man’s faithfulness we can be assured that he will at some time fail.

The Bible teaches much about good works. It also teaches God’s balanced view concerning man’s works. Eph. 2:8, 9 clearly presents that salvation is not of our works, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The next verse tells us how we are to apply good works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Here we see that there is a divine purpose for the believer’s life. We are created in Christ Jesus unto (lit. toward, in view to, for the purpose of) good works, which God has before ordained (Lit. pre-prepared, not pre-decreed) that we should walk in them.

We are saved for a purpose. Part of that purpose is living forever with God in Heaven, but the purpose also includes being obedient and faithful to Him for the short time that we have the opportunity to serve Him on this earth. As we live a life of good works, we can bring honor to God who did so much for us (Matt. 5:16). This will give us a better opportunity to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and to glorify Christ by leading others to Him (John 15:8).

Footnote 1:

An interesting fact worth noting is that the terms “repent of sin” or repentance of sin” are nowhere to be found in Scripture. I have stated this to people who would not even believe it to be true because they had heard the phrases so often. This statement can easily be verified with any computer Bible concordance software. This fact should make us very wary of using these extra-biblical terms in our evangelistic presentation. Although the terms are not used, the concept is to be found in Scripture. Occasionally this is focused upon unbelievers, but not for eternal life.  (See Rev. 9:20, 21; 16:9, 11, where unbelievers experience temporal suffering for not repenting of named sins during the Great Tribulation). More frequently believers are told to repent of some sinful pattern (e.g. Acts 8:22,  where Simon the Sorcerer is exhorted to repent for forgiveness (not for justification as he was already justified by believing, 8:13); and five of the seven churches of Rev. 2 and 3 are told to repent of some specific sins to avoid temporal judgment). The Greek word “repentance” () simply means “a change of mind.” Some try to include in the definition a resulting change of life or turning from sin also. That is not found in the word. The context determines the expected result and the object of the repentance. Frequently in Scripture the context indicates a change of mind resulting in judging and refraining from the particular sin or sins mentioned. The best book that I know that covers this subject in what I believe to be a Biblical manner is “Harmony With God:  A Fresh Look at Repentance” by Zane Hodges. It is available for loan from this writer or to purchase from  or can be read online at:

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